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amcdesThe first Ray Kroc McDonald's, preserved as a museum in Des Plaines, Illinois. (Photo: George)

The world's most iconic food chain is facing some dire statistical trends. According to The Guardian, "McDonald's has announced an 'urgent need to evolve' after unveiling another slide in worldwide sales, the ninth month in a row that sales have fallen at the fast-food chain."

McDonald's is so desperate that it has announced that it will cease using chicken treated with antibiotics that are also used to treat humans (because medical advocates have shown that the ingestion of such antibiotics in food helps develop an immunity to them, which negatively impacts their medical use). Alas, as befits the golden arches of cholesterol and fried artery-clogging food, McDonald's commitment is not to be trusted: The company made a similar pledge in 2003 but never came through on its promise. 

It hurts to be betrayed by the omnipresent, global symbol of US fast food; promises, promises.

McDonald's is reeling from trends toward healthy eating, as its fast-food franchise competitors shift from the model of "logo" eating to a model aimed at meeting evolving consumer preferences.

Monday, 09 March 2015 07:33

Bibi Does Congress, Adelson Does Bibi

2015.9.3BF Berkowitz(Photo: World Economic Forum)BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

When Benjamin Netanyahu addressed Congress last week, in an extraordinarily well orchestrated and elaborately staged made-for-television spectacular, he was playing to several audiences. Ironically, perhaps the least important one was the US Congress. He had his eyes on the Israeli electorate, especially the right-wing base of his party, which fully embraces his policies and whom he expects will come out in droves to support him in the March 17 Israeli election. He was helping the Republican Party once again sock-it-to President Barack Obama. And, he was thanking one of his most important benefactors: Seated in the visitor’s gallery was Sheldon Adelson, gambling mogul, Israeli media mogul, super-Republican Party donor, and bona fide Bibi backer.

Adelson Does Bibi; Bibi Does Adelson

These days, Adelson has probably done more to boost Netanyahu’s political career than any other US citizen. In Israel, Adelson’s newspaper, the free daily Hebrew-language Yisrael Hayom, is an unequivocal and unapologetic backer Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and, like Netanyahu, opposes any peace settlement with the Palestinians. 

Adelson also owns Makor Roshon, the daily newspaper of Israel’s Zionist religious right and NRG, a news website. 

Bill Moyers and Michael Winship reported in a recent piece titled “How an American Billionaire Stands in the Way of Mideast Peace” that Adelson uses Israel Hayom “to bang the drum incessantly for Netanyahu and his right-wing Likud Party, under the reign of which Israel has edged closer and closer to theocracy. As Hebrew University economist Momi Dahan put it: ‘De facto, the existence of a newspaper like Israel Hayom egregiously violates the law, because [Adelson] actually is providing a candidate with nearly unlimited resources.’”


amayoronepercentMayor 1% has an attitude problem. DonkeyHotey)

It might be overreaching to assert that Mayor Rahm Emanuel is running for reelection in Chicago by showing disdain for all the residents of Chicago. After all, he is nicknamed "Mayor 1%," and he certainly represents the "masters of the universe" in the expanding the corporate sector in the Windy City.

The ultra-wealthy who benefit from Emanuel's neoliberal policies hardly comprise enough votes to ensure that Emanuel gets another term. That's one of the reasons he was forced into a runoff election scheduled for April 7, battling against the more progressive Jesus "Chuy" Garcia, who has held a number of elected positions in the city and is currently a Cook County commissioner.

Emanuel holds a slight lead over Garcia in recent polling, but that could be due to Emanuel's enormous campaign treasure chest of more than $30 million, according to The Chicago Sun-Times. Garcia, in denying Emanuel's reelection in the primary (where 50 percent is needed to be elected mayor outright) held Emanuel to 45.4 percent of the vote in a historically low turnout, even though Garcia (who received 33.9 percent of the primary vote) had only raised $1.3 million to run for mayor.

Garcia is returning to a slogan that propelled the beloved Mayor Harold Washington (whom Garcia supported) into City Hall in 1983: "Chicago [under Emanuel] is a tale of two cities." New York Mayor Bill de Blasio also used the slogan in his successful run for mayor of New York in 2013.

Emanuel's egregious assaults on the public commons and the needs of Chicagoans who aren't wealthy are far too many to list in this commentary, as are his instances of blatant crony capitalism. (Progressive author Rick Perlstein touches upon many of them in a February 25 In These Times article.)


Not that we'd want to. But many Americans, perplexingly, have taken that path in the last ten years, as 27 percent of those polled now consider themselves 'mostly' or 'consistently' conservative, up from 18 percent in 2004. (Conservatives were at 30 percent in 1994. Liberals increased from 21 to over 30 percent in the 1990s and have remained approximately the same since then.)

The language of true conservatives often turns to denial, dismissal, and/or belligerence, without verifiable facts of any substance. There is also evidence for delusional thinking and a lack of empathy. Here are four ways to be just like them.

1. Ignore Facts

Research shows that conservatives tend to modify facts to accommodate their beliefs and convictions, while liberals are more willing to deal with the complexity of multiple sources of information that help determine the true facts.

In simpler terms, numerous studies (here, here, here, and here) conclude that conservatives are not very smart.

Perhaps the best example of fact-aversion is climate change. Incredibly, even though 97 percent of climate scientists agree that climate warming is very likely due to human activities, 66 percent of Republicans say they do not believe in global warming.

It's even more incredible that the Chair of the


aaaBombTrain(Photo: EcoWatch)Yet another train carrying volatile crude oil from the Bakken shale formation in North Dakota derailed yesterday, this time in northwestern Illinois near the historic tourist area of Galena overlooking the Mississippi River. It follows recent derailments in West Virginia and Ontario. The area in which it occurred was not as remote as the Ontario derailment. However, it did not require as extensive evacuation as the one in West Virginia in which hundreds were forced from their homes in the bitter cold. According to the Chicago Sun-Times, firefighters were allowing the fireball to burn itself out.

The 105-car train included 103 cars loaded with the crude oil, with eight derailing. It’s not known yet if any oil spilled into the Mississippi River.

Residents of the Galena area might be especially uneasy about trains rolling through their area. A month ago, a train carrying ethanol derailed in Dubuque, Iowa 15 miles away, with a dozen cars going off the tracks and several landing on the frozen Mississippi River. That fire burned for a day before it went out.

So far this year, these derailments, followed by explosions and fires, have happened only in unpopulated and sparsely populated areas. But their frequency is alarming to more densely populated communities on the rail paths of these trains with many saying it’s only a matter of time until a derailment causes a disaster like the one that killed 47 in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec in July 2013—or worse.


aaaCoral(Photo: Brocken Inaglory)Less than 50 years ago, the northeast forests of the Hawaiian Islands, known as the rainy side of the isles of lush tropical valleys, streams and waterfalls were pristine wild lands for thousands of rare birds, flowers, trees and plants.

For example, in Kauai's remote Wainiha Valley, a summit region of Mount Waialeale, was (the operative past tense adverb) one of the wettest areas on earth. Hidden within Hinalele Falls, there were acres of rare, intact ecosystems.

The rugged valley and summit plateau are home to more than 100 plants that exist only in Hawaii, 46 of which are only on the island of Kauai, and rare and endangered Hawaiian forest birds, the 'akikiki, akeke'e, 'apapane, 'amahiki and 'elepaio.

The Hawaiian wetlands and tropical forests are rapidly disappearing from three major causes: global warming (greenhouse gases), overpopulation and the spread of urban development-resorts. All three combined are threatening the precious botanical regions, the wildlife and the ecological balance. The rainforests' sensitive flora and rich diversity of rare plants are vanishing from diminishing rain levels and urban expansion over the last few decades.

On the west side of Kauai, the rivers have already dried up under the relentless, global warming sun. As a depressed resident of Kauai expressed it, "Rivers became streams and then evaporated before my eyes. I watched fish gasp for water until they died. There was nothing I could do. It was too sad to watch."

For some time now, the summits and valleys have been clearly visible; an odd and also heartbreaking phenomenon for the reason that the Wainiha plateaus were always shrouded in clouds. It was exceptional, indeed, when the green summits appeared naked without their majestic robes of white mists and rainbows.


afranleb2(Photoshop Image: LAProgressive Timeline)

A photoshopped image of journalist and author Fran Lebowitz (not to be confused with Annie Leibovitz the famed photographer) has been making its away around the internet. The image may be created on software, but the quotation from Lebowitz is unerringly accurate: "In the Soviet Union, capitalism triumphed over communism. In this country, capitalism triumphed over democracy.

Perhaps one can argue that there is still hope for democracy, the kind of faint pulse that an experienced paramedic detects when others have declared a person found lying in the street dead. Perhaps there is the chance that defibrillation or emergency surgery can yet resurrect an actual robust democracy and not just the appearance of one. In short, the last rites haven't yet been given to democracy in the US, but the priest is hovering near the body.

Lebowitz's quotation suggests the fundamentally overarching reality that a global oligarchical system has, at an accelerated pace, been steering democracies to achieve plutocratic goals. They are an unaccountable force deciding the future of the world's economy - and within that framework - it's political direction. Plutocrats, the likes of those who meet at Davos every year and those whom The World Bank and IMF represents, are the new superseding political force in the world. The plethora of trade agreements give corporations, for example, sovereign powers over certain areas. More significantly, economic issues favoring the ultra-wealthy and corporations are the key focus of governmental entities such as the G8 and G20.


annypdcarNYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton has been afflicted with Giuliani Syndrome. Symptoms do not include courtesy, professionalism and respect. (Photo: Dirk Knight)

2015.5.3 BF Berkowitz(Photo: Bill Dickinson)BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

“In the late 1960s,” the Encyclopedia of Law Enforcement points out, “the blue wall [of silence] came crashing down when a New York City police officer named Frank Serpico blew the whistle on fellow officers who were engaging in illegal activities, including taking bribes from drug dealers and members of organized crime.” His attempts to alert his superiors fell on deaf ears. Serpico eventually went to the press. A commission was formed, an investigation held, a few minor reforms initiated, but basically business went on as usual.

No one whistle-blower, scathing report or series of well-intentioned initiatives is going to eliminate criminal behavior and racist actions by police departments across the country. In all too many cases, as revealed in the Justice Department’s investigation into the Ferguson, Missouri Police Department, the problem is structural. For change to occur, it’s going to take a transformation of police culture; how police go about their business. One thing that will do more good than harm is tearing down the Blue Wall of Silence.

Over the years, police departments across the country have complained that when crimes are committed in communities of color, people in those communities all too often remain silent. However, perhaps the most egregious examples of remaining silent in the face of criminal activity takes place within police departments themselves. The phrases, “the Blue Wall of Silence,” and “the Blue Veil of Silence,” describe the police officer practice of closing ranks behind each other, clamming up in the face of injustice, and protecting their own, making the holding of bad cops responsible for their actions practically impossible.

2015.5.3 BF Simon2(Photo: Keith Bacongco )JONATHAN D. SIMON FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Last month, I attended the Ninth Annual Voting And Elections Summit in Washington, hosted by Fair Vote, The Lawyers' Committee For Civil Rights Under Law, US Vote Foundation, and Overseas Vote Foundation, each a progressive organization dedicated to the betterment of elections in the United States. The summit was indeed a gathering of very bright, motivated, devoted, and patriotic individuals and organizations, whose efforts I deeply appreciate.

It was undercut, however, by a tragic, widely shared blindspot regarding the core vulnerability of the American vote counting process, both in theory and in concrete political bottom-line fact. That process, in the computerized voting era, has become and remains unobservable, offering an open invitation to targeted manipulation sweeping in its cumulative effect.

Many inadequacies of our electoral politics were addressed at the summit and many excellent ideas and reforms proposed. But my takeaway, as has often been the case at such well-intended gatherings, was that for all our attempts to redress the visible flaws of our imperfect voting system - from gerrymandering to Big Money to voter suppression to the Electoral College - if at the end of the day radically partisan and secretive outfits that provide the hardware and software that run our privatized system are counting the votes in the darkness of cyberspace, all those other reforms and initiatives will turn out to be unavailing in their effect. We have given Karl Rove, or any operative who views the bottom line and every means of "improving" it with gleeful cynicism, no reason not to keep right on smiling.

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